In late 2006 Stephen & Katherine fell in love with La Maison de Haut the moment they saw it: a big traditional Guernsey farmhouse (its origins dating back to the 14th Century) with a dower cottage, barn and ruined pigsty, all surrounded by 11 acres of fields and orchards. It seemed the perfect home for an industrious couple craving mid-life creativity.
Four years on from producing their first batch of liqueurs in 2012, the Haut Maison range now consists of a variety of flavoured liqueurs and spirits, preserves, fruit syrups and local raw honey.
We caught up with Katherine to get a closer look at Haut Maison.
With an impressive four years of innovating under your belt, what can we look forward to seeing from you in the years to come?
We are constantly experimenting with new flavours for our liqueurs. In fact we might conduct some market research with a few new flavours at our Food Festival stand this September. As well, we are always looking at efficient ways to take the other fruits we grow to the public: quinces, figs, medlars, 4 varieties of pear, 6 varieties of plum, 12 varieties of eating apple. We are obsessed with our fruits and have innovative minds so there are hundreds of ideas constantly under consideration including different ways to package our products and different places to sell them. What will eventually emerge are those ideas that are economically viable.
Alongside your more conventional products like Raspberry Liqueur and Espresso Liqueur, you have some very unique products on offer, can you tell us the inspiration and process behind these?
Our most unusual products are probably our Loganberry Liqueur and Horseradish Vodka. Half our loganberry orchard is the prickly yet vigorous high-yielding ones – which are tricky to grow and nasty to pick. The thorns make them problematic to grow on an industrial scale so they are a rarity.
The Horseradish Vodka was my personal invention (Stephen developed all the other liqueurs) because I thought the range should include something unusual and savoury. So for my sins, the processing of it – a complicated and most unpleasant job – has fallen onto my shoulders. However I love horseradish, and so my reward is to do the tricky final blending because I want it to be ‘sippable’ – straight out of the freezer.
With so many local bars and restaurants using Haut Maison products, what has been your favourite use of them so far?
It’s been difficult to keep up with what everyone is doing out there. Because the two of us do everything from growing the fruit all the way through to making deliveries, we are far too busy and too tired at the end of the day to go out drinking. I think because we have put so much work, heart and soul into growing the fruit and creating the recipes, we like to savour their true intense flavours so tend to favour drinking them straight up – chilled or at room temperature. We keep a bottle of liqueur in the freezer for pouring over ice cream or sorbet – makes a decadent, uncomplicated treat after a hard day’s work in the fields.
As a judge for Guernsey’s Big Mix Off for the second year running, what do you hope to see from competing bartenders?
I like to see innovation and taste the unexpected. My favourite cocktail last year was a deliciously sweet cocktail that used my horseradish liqueur. Now THAT was innovation.
Lastly, your favourite cocktail?
But of course it has to be Aperitif’s 26 Cornet Street. Great local name devised by a ‘cocktail guru’ and it uses Stephen’s lusciously rich Damson Gin.